When you think about marketing your brand, are you watching what your competitors are up to and then making decisions based on what they may or may not be doing? While it’s very healthy to keep an eye on the competition, copying their every move because you’re worried about getting outmaneuvered is what we call “fear-based marketing.” Consider this a friendly reminder to stay calm, breathe deep, and rationally evaluate all your marketing opportunities before jumping in.

A Case of the Frights

“Whoa,” says a client, “check out what XYZ Widgets is doing on Instagram. I didn’t know we could advertise there! They have 50 more followers than we do. We should probably advertise there too.”

Slow your roll, client, slow your roll. Just because a competitor is trying out a marketing channel doesn’t mean you should be too. A lot of questions need to be answered first.

1. Are your customers using Instagram? How regularly? How many potential customers can you reach there?

2. Does what your business sells match up with the highly visual nature of Instagram? If you sell athletic gear or run a tattoo shop, it’s easy. If you are a chiropractor or accountant, your job is going to be quite a bit harder.

3. Does Instagram meet the goals of what you are trying to do? Can Instagram show examples of successful advertising in your niche or business sector?

The takeaway: look before you leap, ask smart questions, and then decide if an advertising opportunity makes sense for you specifically. In a lot of cases, your competitor may be advertising out of fear themselves, or may just be testing the waters on a new platform that could fizzle out.

Replace the Fear with Facts

Here’s a nice cheat sheet you can use when considering any type of advertising spend.

1. Do my customers pay attention to this medium? (If the sales rep of that medium is any good, they will be able to show you metrics.)

2. Are my potential customers likely to act if they see me in this medium? (If your answer is “maybe” or “I’m not sure” then it’s not time to jump, it’s time to do more homework.)

3. Does this medium fit into my overall marketing strategy? (Think about your long term goals here and also look at your other marketing spend to see if it makes sense to carve out some existing budget.)

4. Does this medium really make sense for what I am selling? (Does a brain surgeon really need an Instagram account? Does a business consulting firm that specializes in an obscure niche need a billboard?)

5. Are there other options that are more targeted to my niche that make more sense? (Remember, targeting is the name of the game these days. It’s about marketing directly to the people who need you in places they would likely look.)

If you can’t answer all of these with a fairly high level of confidence, then save yourself some time, money and heartache and pull back. Sometimes no decision is the right decision, especially when you are making decisions out of fear.

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